When you gaze into the sky, are you aware that you are gazing into emptiness? Do you see the sky as a barrier between you and infinity? If you perceive something as being empty, is it because you understand the concept of fullness, or is it because of fullness you perceive emptiness?
My artistic curiosity lie in the interchange between nothing and something, and its manifestation in everyday reality. While focused on natural elements, I am interested in the threshold between the two, their connotative values, and the ways in which they inform and question each other.
For the premise of my work, I focus on forms easily recognizable and universally understood: water, sky, land, forms that are part of our everyday poetry, sublime or mundane. Creating photographs of these subjects, my goal is to explore how much visual information is needed to perceive the essence of the subject against the background of nothing, a void. I am interested in the ways in which this essence serves as a framework for nothingness, as well as the ways it manifests itself against the canvas of nothing.
My exploration of nothingness is informed by Eastern philosophy, in which the notion of nothing is understood as the beginning and the potential. This I believe varies significantly from the Western existential notion of nothing as doom or death. According to the Taoist principles of Chinese painting, space is not a measurable quantity, but rather a means for suggesting the immeasurable vastness. Similarly, in most of my photographic work, the subject matter is gradually obliterated into large areas of a white void, suggesting unknown vastness and unrealized possibilities. Presenting the viewer with subtle indications of an image on a mostly white piece of photo paper, my goal is to bring forth the dialogue between the infinite qualities of the landscape and the limitations of the photographic process. In addition, I wish to question the viewer’s perception of the boundaries – the edges of the piece of paper and the edges of the image – determined by camera framing.
Elena Volkova was born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine, and she moved to the U.S. in 1994. She earned two degrees from the Maryland Institute College of Art: a MFA in Studio Arts as well as a BFA in Photography.
Elena’s work has been exhibited in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Illinois, and Virginia. In 2008, she had a solo exhibition of photographs and drawings at the Paperwork Gallery in Baltimore, titled “Waterlines”. The exhibit addressed the ephemeral nature of water and presented fleeting images of water waves, clouds, and snow. “Airscapes”, an exhibit at the Flashpoint gallery in DC in 2008, presented a collection of large-scale prints of barely perceptible images of clouds.
Elena’s current body of work focuses on the idea of legibility, or the limited amount of information that is needed for a viewer to identify a subject. It also addresses the viewer’s awareness of boundaries and their interaction with an art space.
She has received several recognitions and awards, including the Janis Meyer Traveling Fellowship, which allowed her to photograph remote areas of Russia in 2003.
Volkova resides in Baltimore, MD. She teaches art at Seton Keough High School, and an adjunct Photography professor at Goucher College.